Soccer, cross country and women’s volleyball seasons won’t be held
UCSB men’s soccer, which would have played host to the College Cup today in a non-COVID world, will now have no season at all.
The Big West Conference announced on Thursday that it has canceled all of its fall sports seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision affects five Gaucho sports: men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, and women’s indoor volleyball.
The season for Gaucho men’s water polo, which competes in the Golden Coast Conference, has also been left in doubt.
“Protecting the health and safety of our student-athletes and following public health guidelines are our top priorities,” said Dan Butterly, who took over as Big West commissioner this summer. “Despite a strong desire to return our fall sport student-athletes to competition, the board unanimously agreed that the resources and protocols needed to safely and equitably conduct fall, winter and spring sports seasons concurrently was not in line with those priorities nor in the best interests of our student-athletes and coaches.”
He said the Big West still plans to hold seasons for men’s and women’s basketball, with conference play starting on Dec. 27. The viability of conducting the other winter and spring sports seasons will be determined next month.
“This was a difficult decision, particularly in light of the significant sacrifices our staff, coaches, student-athletes and their families have already made in the interest of public health,” said UC Irvine chancellor Howard Gillman, chair of the Big West Board of Directors. “While this decision is disappointing for many, the health and safety of Big West student-athletes, coaches, staff and the campus community continue to be the preeminent priorities for the CEOs of the conference’s 11 institutions.”
UCSB entered the fall with high hopes. Its women’s volleyball team hoped to build upon the momentum of having reached the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Gaucho men’s soccer team advanced to the 2019 NCAA quarterfinals and was set to hold this year’s College Cup at Harder Stadium. The semifinals would have been held today with the championship match originally set for Sunday.
UCSB pulled out as host, however, when the coronavirus forced the NCAA to postpone the soccer season until 2021 and the College Cup to May 13 and 17. University officials cited staffing conflicts with other sports that would be held at that time — an issue that the Big West also noted on Thursday in canceling all of its fall sports.
The NCAA has since moved soccer’s Final Four to Cary, N.C.
In a statement released Thursday evening, the Big West board said it would continue to “monitor and evaluate the current program of COVID-19 medical and safety protocols in men’s and women’s basketball.”
“Basketball will guide a decision regarding a safe return to competition for Big West spring sports,” the statement continued. “As medical and scientific data rapidly evolves surrounding the pandemic, the conference will continue to monitor developments and will consider additional actions as needed.”
The conference sponsors 13 other sports at the NCAA Division I level: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s volleyball, softball, women’s beach volleyball and women’s water polo.
UCSB and Long Beach State are the two remaining charter members of the Big West, which was formed in 1969. Other members are Cal Poly, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, Hawai‘i, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC San Diego.